How to Use Red Chard

Did you ever go to the store and see those dark green leafy veggies and run off scared? You feel like you want to buy them, but you’re not sure, so you pass them by and stick to your broccoli and carrots…again. Well, don’t fret my pet. Those dark leafy green guys are super healthy for you, so it’s worth exploring them a bit.  And with all dark greens, they have a bit of a bitterness to them, so you have to cook them in a way to counter act that bitterness.  I guess that’s how you can tell they’re healthy for you, huh?  I like red chard because not only is it leafy and green, but beautifully red too! It’s like Christmas on a plate… okay, not really.  But here’s how you use them:  

1. Start out by giving them a good wash. And chop up the stems very small. Some people discard them and only use the leaves, but then it wouldn’t be red chard anymore in my opinion, so do it this way.

2. Then grab the leaves and tear them up with your hands, as if tearing up lettuce for a salad. Or you can just run your knife through them.  Give the leaves an extra rinse.  They might be particularly dusty.

3. Keep the kids separate because you’re going to cook them at different times.

4. Slice up some garlic and onion. I like to make thin slices out of the garlic for presentation purposes.

5. Then put the garlic in a COLD pan with olive oil and then heat everything together. Usually, you’d want to heat the pan up with oil first and then throw in the garlic. But in this case, you want the garlic slices to slowly infuse the oil as it heats up, so they will release their fragrance, without burning.

6. When you can smell the garlic, add in your sliced onions.

7. Add in your chopped stems first, since they’re tougher than the leaves.

8. Give them a good stir around, and add some salt and pepper.  Let let them slightly soften, gently and blissfully.

9. Then grab your gorgeous mountain of leaves and nestle them into the sizzling pan. When they wilt down a bit, add more salt and pepper…and crushed red pepper flakes for a little heat and spice.

10. Okay, and here’s the last step and most important part: Like I mentioned above, these greens do have a slight bitterness to them- as is characteristic of any dark greens. So add something sharp like a few sploshes of red wine vinegar, or a squeeze of fresh lemon to taste. Then counter balance it with either a pinch or two of sugar, or anything else sweet like agave nectar or honey. The point is not to make them taste sweet, but just to counter balance the natural bitterness of the leaf.

Some chefs will even blanch them in boiling water with a couple spoonfuls of sugar first, just to remove that bitterness, and then saute them.  The vinegar helps with that too, because it slightly “pickles” them, making them more palatable.  So if you’re fine without a pinch of sugar, leave it out.  And if you enjoy that slightly bitter taste, go for it as it. It’s all up to you. There’s no red chard police out to get you.

Just make sure everything is nicely seasoned with salt and pepper at the end. Enjoy these beautifully slightly wilted greens with a piece of chicken, steak, or in our case, some macaroni and cheese!  Well, now you know how to use red chard, so the next time you see it at the store, don’t be afraid.  Grab that bundle and get cookin’ with confidence!

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